NEWS BRIEF

Texas on verge of strengthening its medical marijuana program – a bit

The Texas Senate on Tuesday night approved a watered-down medical cannabis reform bill that would raise the THC cap from 0.5% to 1% and add all types of cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as qualifying conditions.

The Texas House must approve the amended bill before it is sent to Gov. Greg Abbott.

The measure, if enacted, would boost what is now a small medical marijuana market in one of the country’s most populous states.

But the Senate version is significantly weaker than one the state House had overwhelmingly passed in late April.

A Senate committee substitute lowered the THC cap from the House version of 5% and eliminated chronic pain as a qualifying condition. Chronic pain generally is one of the leading conditions that qualify to be treated with MMJ.

The Senate passage occurred on the eve of the Senate’s deadline to consider bills during this legislative session.

Morris Denton, CEO of Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation, one of the three MMJ operators licensed in the state, told The Dallas Morning News that he was disappointed in the Senate’s changes but glad some progress is being made.

Denton told MJBizDaily earlier this year that the program isn’t economically viable as is but that the industry needed to be realistic about what it could accomplish in this year’s legislative session.

The other licensees are Atlanta-based Parallel/Surterra Wellness and Florida-headquartered Fluent. Each is limited to one dispensary, so getting medical marijuana to patients is a big part of the program.

But physician participation in the program has been limited, and the number of patients stood at only 5,413 as of April, according to state data.

The state House had approved the stronger HB 1535 by a resounding 134-12 vote in late April, but then the measure stalled. It got a kick-start when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick referred it to the Senate State Affairs Committee.

The Senate committee had called a public hearing on the bill on short notice Monday.

The bill also will create a medical cannabis research program.

– Jeff Smith

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